Pokémon Legends: Arceus learns the right lessons from Pokémon Go
At this point, the Pokemon Go the phenomenon gives the impression that it occurred two alternate universes ago. Remember those euphoric few months in 2016 when everyone was constantly outside and congregating with complete strangers? Mobile gaming has been more than a flash in the pan for Nintendo. It has renewed mainstream interest in the franchise, maintaining its cross-generational dominance.
Pokemon GoThe success of however created some complications for the franchise. It’s a unique experience designed for mobile, barely resembling the traditional RPG setup of the mainline games. Finding a way to fit its hooks into fully fleshed out Switch games is no easy task, making it difficult to fully capitalize on the momentum.
With Pokemon Legends: Arceus, Game Freak has finally cracked the deal. With a focus on “research”, Nintendo’s latest game draws all the right lessons from Pokemon Go without throwing franchise assets out the window.
When Pokemon Go launched for the first time, it was a better social experience than a video game. The gameplay was even more complicated than its RPG counterparts. Players simply caught as many Pokemon as possible while walking around. Evolving a monster meant catching the same creature over and over again to stock up on candy. It wasn’t much fun; it was just a good excuse to go out.
The hit game has added more mechanics since then, making it a bit less repetitive. More specifically, it now includes field research. The system works similar to any mobile challenge system, giving players monthly tasks to complete. Players can get rewards for anything from hatching eggs to throwing curveballs to just walking.
The system helps pave some of Pokemon Go, but it’s also an ingenious solution for the series at large. The core Pokémon games include a myriad of systems for players to engage with, and it can be difficult to remember them all. It’s much easier to catch a monster of sorts, raise your six favorites, and beat the main story without ever hatching an egg or going to the Battle Tower.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus understands how checklists can help players focus their attention when there’s too much to do. Each time players encounter a Pokemon, they are given a set of research tasks with clear goals and milestones. Players will get research points for catching and defeating monsters, but there are also more specific tasks. Buizel’s task list instructs players to defeat him using electric moves as a subtle way to teach and integrate type advantages. He’ll also pay out points to watch him use Aqua Jet, prompting players to add him to their party and try the move in battle.
Each monster is a small study session that deepens a coach’s understanding of the game. The more boxes they tick, the more mental Pokédex they build. These guide rails make open-world play feel less overwhelming and give it a more fulfilling sense of progress.
So far, it’s the best idea we’ve seen come in a Pokemon game post-Go. Game Freak previously attempted to build on the success of mobile gaming with Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee, but the ideas he borrowed were more superficial. It simply streamlined capturing by having players throw a ball instead of fighting, just like in Go. This idea made the game easier for kids, but wasn’t one that really had the strengths of mobile gaming.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus is the closest Game Freak has come yet to understanding what makes Go check. Sure, it doesn’t have the same social component or AR integration that initially appealed to gamers, but those were never going to work in a console game. Instead of, Arceus understand what is really attractive Go: This makes players feel like Professor Oak instead of Ash Ketchum. It’s about studying behaviors and planting habitats instead of battling Team Rocket and earning shiny badges. The search system intelligently reinforces this distinction.
I hope to see these learnings become part of the next mainline RPG. While I’ve loved my 25 years as a trainer, I’m ready to become the David Attenborough of the Pokémon universe.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus is now available on Nintendo Switch.